We’re upping our commitment to renewable energy in a big way as we continue to address climate change

December 07, 2020

To say 2020 presented us all with challenges might be the understatement of the year. 

But amid a global pandemic and the continued devastating impacts of climate change on our society, it’s clear that we can’t put climate action on hold. 

Today, we’re continuing our commitment to take climate action through an increased investment in renewable energy generation. Building on past progress sourcing renewable energy in several European markets, this year McDonald’s completed three new virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs). 

VPPAs are investments that increase renewable energy capacity by helping to build renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar farms, ultimately adding renewable energy to the nation’s power grid.

In 2019, McDonald’s USA signed two long-term VPPA transactions, one wind and one solar, located in Texas. Now, with the addition of three more deals, McDonald’s is positioned to add more renewable energy to the nation’s power supply than most U.S. corporations to date.*

The three new projects (two wind farms and one portfolio of solar projects) are slated to be built in Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Ohio.

The COVID 19 pandemic has intensified McDonald’s focus on strengthening the resilience of our communities and the planet,” said Jenny McColloch, Vice President, Sustainability. 
“As one of the world’s largest restaurant companies, we have a unique opportunity to strengthen climate resiliency with our network of franchisees and supplier partners,” she added.

“The impacts of these U.S.-based VPPA deals for renewable energy represent significant milestones toward our science based target for 2030, and serve as meaningful examples of the solutions we are employing throughout our system to drive climate action and add more renewable energy to the grid."

Check out the related infographic for a quick take.

This is McDonald’s living its values, our industry partners attest.

 “The addition of these VPPA transactions demonstrates McDonald’s continued leadership in the renewable energy space, as well as their commitment to supporting local communities where they serve,” said Miranda Ballentine, CEO, Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA).

 “These projects will not only provide more U.S. communities greater access to clean energy, but they will also stimulate local economies through job creation. As one of the nation’s leading corporate buyers of renewable energy in 2020, McDonald’s level of investment in clean energy serves as an inspiration to the entire REBA community,” she added. 

How much energy is that? Combined, McDonald’s share of the five wind and solar projects will have a total capacity of 1130 megawatts. That’s enough to power about 8,000 McDonald’s restaurants. The solar panels alone would cover the surface area of New York’s Central Park seven times.

Collectively, the impact of these deals also represents a sizable step toward our global restaurants and offices climate action target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 36% by 2030, from a 2015 base year. Once online, the emissions reductions from these five deals will take us about halfway to our target.

McDonald’s share of the projects will help prevent about 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year once online. That’s equivalent to planting 40 million trees or taking 500,000 cars off the road for one year. 

“The impressive volume of renewable energy deals McDonald’s has committed to –  despite the challenges COVID-19 has placed on many organizations – further elevates McDonald’s as a leader within the industry,” said Tim Juliani, Director, Corporate Climate Engagement, World Wildlife Fund. 

We also firmly indicated our position on climate action to policymakers by co-signing a letter to Congressional leaders, along with more than two dozen major corporations, urging Congress to support the renewable energy sector and clean energy infrastructure as part of any COVID-19 economic stimulus or relief package.

“In a year like 2020, with so many other crises at the fore, McDonald’s has remained strikingly steadfast in its commitment to climate action,” Juliani added.

Beyond the environmental benefits, we’re excited that the investments will also generate employment opportunities and tax revenue in local communities where the projects are located, including an estimated 3,400 short-term jobs, 135 long-term positions and $360 million in local tax revenues – an example of our commitment to the communities we serve.

We’re ambitious about renewable energy, but it’s one of many areas where we’re taking action to reduce our carbon footprint. 

In addition to our global restaurants and offices target, we are also committed to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across our supply chain, through collaboration with our suppliers and producers. This combined climate action target has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.

McDonald’s will continue to address climate change and this global health crisis, as trying as it is, is an important reminder for companies like ours to keep a long-term mindset.  

If we all hope to ensure a more resilient environment and food system for the future, we must.

*Based on data since 2008 that McDonald’s USA is among the top 10 US corporate buyers of renewable energy.

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